Neutrino, a difficult-to-detect fermion, is a subatomic particle similar to an electron but with no electrical charge. Nearly massless, long thought to be zero, the fermion should travel at almost the speed of light, approximately 186,000 miles (299,338 kilometers) a second. However, to the astonishment of OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) team scientists, in collaboration with CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso (LNGS) in Gran Sasso, Italy, and using the CERN Neutrinos to Gran Sasso (CNGS) neutrino beam, the subatomic particles in the experiment reached their destination about 60 nanoseconds quicker than expected. Neutrinos—ghostly subatomic particles scientists announced this week—may have been observed traveling faster than the speed of light.
A solar neutrino originating from nuclear fusion in the Sun’s core is the most common type of neutrino passing through any source observed on Earth at any moment.
Neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the universe, have minimal and rare interactions with other particles, and are incredibly difficult to detect. When a neutrino passes through matter, hitting something dead-on will create detectable electrically charged particles. A low-tech way is to fill a big tank with water. We know light slows down through a liquid, and if a neutrino with enough energy knocks into an electron, the electron will zip through the fluid faster than the light beam does.
Vast amounts of neutrinos pass through us every day. Trillions of fermions penetrate our bodies every second, but they don’t interact with us. We do not feel them because neutrinos hardly ever interact with the atoms that make up our bodies. Neutrinos interact very weakly with matter, so they rarely leave a trace. Produced by the nuclear fusion process powering the sun and stars, neutrinos play a role in many essential aspects of our lives, in radioactive decay that provides heat inside our planet and as a byproduct of nuclear reactors.
Fundamental, ever-present, detectable by its particular effect – neutrinos have the potential to do amazing things like speed up global communication, detect nuclear weapons, and even confirm the elusive dark matter.
WE&P by: EZorrilla.